Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation

The line between appreciation and exploitation
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In honor of the annual Coachella season’s commencement this past week, I’d like to once again highlight the discussion surrounding cultural appropriation. From bindis, through feathered head ornaments and dashikis, all the way to war paint, the festival’s fashion scene has it all. The issue here is not people being keen on sporting items of clothing or accessories that have symbolic connotations in certain cultures, but rather they, as members of a dominant group, often tending to exploit the heritage of marginalized ones without previous consideration.

One definition, as given by Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University, is, ‘’taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artefacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.’’

More often than not, these appropriations come in the form of a passing fad, be it twerking when it was ‘in’ not as a result of a newly found appreciation and understanding of African-American culture, but due to a music video featuring Miley Cyrus adopting it as yet another sign of her path to self-discovery. Or when cornrows and dreadlocks are admired and requested simply because individuals with large public followings like the Kardashians or Katy Perry were seen wearing them, and not as, for example, a protest against the stigma which exists of these hairstyles being ‘unsanitary’ and ‘unprofessional’. For black people especially, cornrows and dreadlocks can act as an immediate rejection when applying for a job, whereas for white people they are seen as ‘edgy’ or ‘unique’.

Changing or even getting rid of oppressive actions that have made their way into everyday interactions is no easy task. The Coachella debate for one, is not about denying people of different cultures the use of aspects of one which is not their own, but about doing it without a thought. Diversity in society is an inherently good thing, but it is not achieved through only paying attention to certain cultures when it is suitable, or when it benefits an individual who has no experience being a member of an ostracized group. If you know you’re about to use a symbol or an element of a culture which is not your known, learning about the context and its history can be the first step in avoiding contributing to cultural appropriation.
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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
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Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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The Ins And Outs Of Imposter Syndrome And How It Affects Women Of Color

We're taught by older generations that we always have to work twice as hard to get half as far as white peers.

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First things first I want to tell you what Imposter Syndrome is not. I know there are plenty of articles that discuss self-confidence through body image but I can guarantee you that's not what I'm talking about here. That could be another article for another day, perhaps. It's also not just a feeling of "oh, dang, I could've done that better" or "I wish I'd done that differently." It must also be noted that this is less of an actual disorder and more of a condition if you will.

What Imposter Syndrome actually is is feeling like nothing you accomplish is actually worth anything and that everything you've achieved is because of luck, not because of the work you put into it. It's always feeling like you're going to be exposed or found out for not actually being as intelligent or successful as you seem or as you say you are.

But how does this manifest in everyday life you ask? Well, of course, I am here to provide some examples.

Whenever I have a project due in one of my journalism classes, I make sure to listen to the instructions when it's being introduced. I always go back and read over the syllabus when completing my projects. I take the tips and tricks into account. I follow all of the guidelines I was given and I always try to put my best foot forward. Yet, I still always feel like I'm doing everything incorrectly or that I'm forgetting something. I feel like no matter what my professor is going to hate it and I'm going to get a bad grade.

Or it can manifest as whenever I try to apply for a job I have a hard time describing my skills or past work experience because I feel like I haven't really done anything relevant. I also don't really feel like I have many skills if any. I always remember that someone is going to have more experience or a better portfolio or a better resume. Whenever I remember that it can leave me feeling inadequate and like I don't belong. Like everyone else is a hireable employee and like I'm a poser.

I think this has a lot to do with the fact that, as a woman, you're socialized to put other people's needs and wants before your own whether that be celebrating other people's accomplishments or helping other people bounce back from failure. But you never really gain the skills to be that same support for yourself, at least not without years of work and undoing the internalized misogyny you've faced. Also because we've been socialized this way it can leave you feeling like you don't deserve anything good because the people around you haven't gotten there's yet. And that can be extremely difficult to break through.

As for people of color, because we're taught by older generations that we always have to work twice as hard to get half as far as white peers, we're always so used to exerting so much energy. But the moment you actually get recognized for your hard work can be jarring because you might feel like you weren't working as hard you could be and don't deserve it. Or that you got lucky this time but soon everyone is gonna find out the truth and you're gonna be exposed as a fraud or an underachiever.

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